Wicked Campers stops fighting the bad fight

In Australian Cultural Exports, Media and Communications, National Headlines, Transport

Photo: One of the company’s vans and its slogan that has caused controversy. (Supplied: Facebook)

Wicked Campers apologises for controversial van slogan after public uproar, vows to update other vehicles

Wicked Campers has apologised to the woman whose petition over an offensive van slogan sparked a furore, and vowed to change any “insensitive” vehicles in its fleet.

It came on the same day the Senate unanimously passed a Greens’ motion condemning the slogans, which have been described as racist, sexist and misogynistic.

A fresh uproar targeting the van hire company was sparked over the weekend when Sydney mother Paula Orbea launched a Change.org petition after her 11-year-old daughter told her about a vehicle she spotted in the Blue Mountains.

Ms Orbea was outraged by the slogan reading: “In every princess, there’s a little slut who wants to try it just once.”

In a statement, Wicked Campers said it wished to acknowledge the prevailing community opinion by painting over the slogan.

“It is impossible for us to conceive that a throw-away message written on a van could have such far-reaching implications for the community at large.” Wicked director John Webb

The company also committed to change slogans of an “insensitive nature” on their vans over the next six months.

It has also invited anyone who feels strongly offended by a slogan to paint or tape over it.

“As is often quoted: ‘A sense of humour is a sense of proportion’,” said the statement, attributed to company director John Webb.

“And in this instance, we admit that we have taken things out of proportion and out of the realms of what is considered to be ‘socially acceptable’.

“It is impossible for us to conceive that a throw-away message written on a van could have such far-reaching implications for the community at large.”

The company apologised to Ms Orbea, who said she is overjoyed that the petition, which attracted more than 119,000 signatures, triggered action.

“I’m always trying to get people to realise they do have power, that when you merge and organise and have a voice, a collective voice, it shouts down all those little voices saying ‘no no, we’re going to do what we want’,” she told the ABC.

“I think if there’s a lesson out of all of this it is that if we were able to achieve this altogether in four-and-a-half days and do something that hasn’t been able to be done before.

‘More than harmless fun’

Again and again Wicked Campers has flouted rulings against the intimidatory and misogynistic slogans on its hire vans, writes Helen Pringle on The Drum.

She writes that Wicked is a serial offender at the Advertising Standards Bureau, which has formally considered dozens of complaints against the company since 2008.

Ms Pringle says perhaps it is time to take the consider a different approach to the company – one with bite.

Read her article here.

“I think it really struck a chord. I think everyone just feels helpless and impotent, and it was just like well, now we’re allowed to [speak out].”

Ms Orbea called for rules around enforcing advertising standards to be beefed up.

Greens’ Senator Larissa Waters says today’s motion also sends a strong message to the campervan company.

“I’m pleased to hear that Wicked Campers have said they will remove the specific slogan that sparked an online petition … and have committed to remove more of what they describe as “insensitive” slogans in coming months,” she said.

“Promoting violence against women is completely unacceptable in Australian society.

“Violence against women is certainly no laughing matter – it is a national emergency.”

Human Right Commissioner defends right to use offensive slogan

Earlier today, Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson defended the right of the company to use offensive slogans on its vans.

Despite the success of the online campaign, Mr Wilson said people who disapproved should protest by not using the business.

“Government shouldn’t be going around telling people what they can and cannot say, unless it leads to direct and explicit harm,” he said.

“Just removing things that are offensive, while it may seem attractive, is a very dangerous precedent at least because people always have very different views about what is offensive and therefore should be limited.”

Company familiar with controversy

Wicked Campers, registered in Queensland but operating across Australia, offer campervans aimed at a primarily young backpacker market.

The company has been subject to numerous complaints in the past six years.

Ms Orbea’s call for action follows a finding by the Advertising Standards Bureau in March upholding a complaint about the company’s slogan “…fat girls are harder to kidnap”.

The board found that Wicked Campers made light of the serious issue of kidnap, which breached a section of the Advertiser Code of Ethics, by depicting material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety.

The complainant argued the advertisement was sexist and misogynistic, but the board found it did not breach section 2.1 of the code, which requires advertisements to not portray material that is discriminatory or a vilification on gender, race and other grounds.

Wicked Campers did not respond to the bureau’s finding.

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